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Van Barth

MiddVotes co-president Nora Bayley ’21.

MiddVotes demystifies the absentee ballot process

MiddVotes co-president Nora Bayley ’21. (Van Barth)

With Election Day on the horizon, MiddVotes has stepped up to help students navigate the voting process.

MiddVotes is a nonpartisan student organization working to increase civic engagement among Middlebury students. This semester, MiddVotes co-presidents Nora Bayley ’21 and Zeke Hodkin ’21.5 have shifted to online programming that educates students on voting.

“I think the election process and the voter registration process in the United States is insane and just incredibly complicated,” Bayley said. “It’s a huge hurdle to overcome.”

The Covid-19 pandemic has further complicated the registration and voting process for the Nov. 3 elections. Some state governments have altered the absentee ballot request process, and some states require voters to have a witness sign their ballots or have a notary present.

“There are so many lawsuits and pending litigation related to Covid and election administration that it has sent us into a little bit of a tizzy,” Hodkin said.

MiddVotes serves as a guide to ease students through this unusual election year. The organization is a resource for students to ask about deadlines, how to register, how to request a ballot and the intricacies of voter ID laws. “We’re there as a sounding board,” Bayley said.

This year, MiddVotes sent out personalized emails to all eligible students with detailed voting information specific to their home state. The organization also advises students on whether their vote will have more impact in their home state or in Vermont.

In addition to advice and information, MiddVotes has worked to bring to campus the resources students need to cast their ballots. Since certain states require that absentee voters get their ballot notarized or signed by a witness, MiddVotes set up notary stations for students. Those who were in need of postage for their absentee ballot could stop by Davis Family Library or the Mail Center Warehouse for a free stamp.

MiddVotes was still able to hold some in-person voter registration drives, although opportunities were limited due to Covid-19 restrictions. Normally, the organization would hold more in-person events, including registration drives and an election-night watch party with professors analyzing results as they come in.

Instead, MiddVotes has focused on demystifying the absentee voting process this year.

“I think that a lot of people get angry with the electoral process, understandably so, but, at the same time, it is your tool,” Hodkin said. “MiddVotes is a really important organization, and one that I’m involved in because it is harnessing a lot of power for students and giving students the ability to use your voice and vote.”

Students with questions about the voting process in their state can email MiddVotes at [email protected] or visit their newly designed website.